First off, the book introduces the concept of out-moded professions. For instance, with the invention of the car, the blacksmith was no longer a valuable asset to the world. Horseshoes were no longer part of everyday life. A factory assembly line replaced this profession and much of the work he needed to do. The book argues this could be happening to the public relations professionals. With the advent of the blog and a variety of outlets on the internet, traditional methods of advertising and informing the public have also gone by the wayside. In the beginning of the television, there were three channels to choose from. Everyone saw the same programming and commercials. Now hundreds of channels compete with each other and the remote, channel-changing audience. With the internet thousands, if not millions, compete to be seen even once. With such a vast expanse of media channels, how can an advertisement be seen? According to Naked Conversations, blogs might be the answer.
Blogs link all over the Internet. The conversations of many blogs steer people to other blogs, web sites, videos or Internet component. In turn, these other sites link back to the blog and to many other sites, creating a vast network on interconnected information. This creates “Google juice.” Google juice is a term referring to the method a Web site gains rank on the Google search engine. The more sites that link to your site, the more chances people will click to visit your site, the better your visibility on the search engine. Naked Conversations says a highly ranked page on Google is more valuable than front page coverage in the New York Times because it has the potential to reach many more people. There are about a billion Google searches every week, which is nearly 110 times greater than the New York Times weekly readership. Having a highly ranked blog on just about any subject is guarenteed to land a significant amount of traffic directed from Google alone. I’m going to say that Internet word of mouth is the equivalent of having a commercial run during the Superbowl in the 1990s.
On the Internet people tend to ignore banner ads and advertisements, both old world methods of communication. Blogs may be an effective counter to ad banner blindness. People can actively engage in blogs without feeling they are being targeted by marketing placement. The caveat to that interaction is that a blog has to be well done in order for people to feel that way.
People don’t want to feel as if they are being sold something. They want honest opinions on whatever it is they want to know. When people find out someone it trying to pull one over on them, they get upset. Sony tried a stunt like this, only to receive massive backlash from the blogosphere. People want their blogs to be real, not to find out everything they thought they knew was a lie. Imagine having your significant other tell you they are not who you thought they were. I know I’d be upset if my girlfriend told me she is actually played by a man reading a script while trying to sell me timeshares or if she was hired by DeBeers to get me to purchase a diamond ring so she could get some form of commission. Trust is capital in the blogosphere. Once your reputation is tarnished, you’re shunned by the community that will be ready for your next trick.
An interesting comment made in the book, and a challenge I’m currently facing at work, is an e-newsletter. Every month we send out 2,500 e-mails to our partners approximately 2 megabytes in size. Much of this mail gets bounced back or flagged as spam and never makes it through the series of tubes to the Outlook Box on the other side. The book recommends reformatting the newsletter as a “blog” with an RSS feed. This would eliminate any congestion on our mail server, not clog other mail servers, eliminate the chance that our web address is blacklisted as spam, drive up the number of page views, possibly give bloggers a chance to link to it, and, most importantly, create Google juice for the site. Unfortunately, most of the recipients of the e-newsletter are not tech savvy enough to figure out RSS feeds.
There was also talk about blog appropriateness. Many industry leaders and CEOs now have blogs. They describe a variety of different things, but in general appreciate the feedback they receive. Customer feedback can be obtained from blogs for free. The comments on blogs is insight into the consumer world that should not be ignored. The book gives several examples of CEOs receiving wonderful ideas from their blog constituents.
It was also noted that CEOs should be honest in their blogs. As stated above, people don’t want to to read a blog shilling some kind of widget. They want insight into the corporate world and to learn about decision making processes, what interests these big shots, and what drives them.
Some companies, such as Microsoft and Sun Mircosystems, encourage their employees to blog about their work activities. This is a tricky subject, as there are certain things that cannot be said in blogs. I wrote about this in our class discussion board, but I have to censor my blog now that I’m a working professional. I can’t say where I work and mention something that would jeopardize my position as an employee or the reputation of the company. My co-workers might start to gossip if they knew half the things I’ve done/seen, which could lead to some uncomfortable situations and discussions I’d rather not have in a professional environment (Not that I’ve done anything that egregious, I just don’t think business and personal mix. Unless you are James Bond, then you sleep with your business).